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Was Gov. Scott right to reject Tampa's request to ban concealed weapons outside the Republican National Convention?
Rich Bard's picture
Rich Bard
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn asked the governor for an exemption to the state law that preempts local governments from regulating firearms. Exemptions are allowed at “places where a firearm creates an unnecessary threat of injury and harm to innocent bystanders,” such as the RNC, in the mayor’s view. The governor said he was confident law enforcement will fully protect visitors “without the need to resort to sweeping infringements on our most sacred constitutional traditions.”
Bob Buckhorn's picture
Bob Buckhorn
Mayor, City of Tampa

The City of Tampa will soon be center stage when the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) comes to town in August. As mayor, I look forward to being the best host possible. However, my job first and foremost is to protect the people of our city and the law enforcement who serve on the front lines.   

In anticipation of the thousands of visitors, the Department of Homeland Security has designated the convention as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). It is an extraordinary event. These are extenuating circumstances and should be treated as such.

To be better prepared to respond to any threats that may develop during the RNC, I asked city staff to develop a temporary ordinance for the city's downtown area to regulate certain items that are usually benign in nature, such as sticks, poles, and water guns, but have historically been used as weapons during an NSSE.

One item noticeably missing from the city's temporary ordinance is firearms.  The State of Florida prohibits all local governments from passing any regulation relating to firearms.  The statutes do provide exemptions for places where a firearm creates an unnecessary threat of injury and harm to innocent bystanders, such as athletic events, polling places, and meetings of the Legislature.  I believe that the RNC meets the similar spirit of these exemptions.

In addition to the temporary ordinance, the city has arranged for a significant increase in security measures, which should create a safe environment in the downtown area where a firearm should not be necessary for self defense.  I respectfully asked Gov. Rick Scott to issue an executive order prohibiting firearms in downtown Tampa during the RNC.

I have had a concealed weapon permit. I support the Second Amendment. However, having guns within the vicinity of the event in downtown puts us all at greater risk, particularly our law enforcement personnel. 

This was a workable, temporary solution. However, Gov. Scott made his position clear. I am disappointed, but we will plan and continue to train accordingly. 

Tampa will be a great host, and I will continue to work diligently to ensure that the world will see this is the only city where you want to live, work, start a business, raise a family, vacation and have any event.

Sean Caranna's picture
Sean Caranna
Executive Director, Florida Carry, Inc.

On March 29 of this year, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s statute that allows its governor to prohibit the possession and transportation of firearms during declared emergencies.

The judge was very clear in the decision that these “Riot Act”-type laws are unconstitutional. He wrote:

“It cannot be seriously questioned that the emergency declaration laws at issue here burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment. …

“Under the laws at issue here, citizens are prohibited from engaging, outside their home, in any activities secured by the Second Amendment. …

“While the bans imposed pursuant to these statutes may be limited in duration, it cannot be overlooked that the statutes strip peaceable, law-abiding citizens of the right to arm themselves. ...” (Bateman v. Perdue (E.D.N.C. Mar. 29, 2012)

Given the nearly identical language of the Florida and North Carolina statutes, it should be no surprise that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declined Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s request that he institute such an unconstitutional deprivation of fundamental rights throughout a large area of the city during the Republican National Convention in August. 

The governor denied the mayor's request, saying that, "An absolute ban on possession in entire neighborhoods and regions would surely violate the 2nd Amendment."

In addition to the Federal National Security Zone established by the U.S. Secret Service around the RNC site, the City of Tampa still intends to impose its own Baghdad-style Clean Zone,” which would ban the lawful carry of defense implements in a wide swath surrounding the convention center, including the entire downtown area, and even across the river.

We would remind the Tampa City Council and its mayor that firearms are not the only class of “arms” protected by the Second Amendment and Florida’s preemption laws.  Florida has nearly 1 million people who are licensed to carry concealed firearms and other weapons for lawful self-defense.  The carry of lawful handguns, stun guns, tear gas, knives, and billies by those people for self-defense may not be regulated by the city. 

This is why we have a Constitution and a protected right to bear arms.  It was calculated to prevent governments from trampling the rights of the people. It’s unconscionable that the mayor and City Council of Tampa would call for the imposition of martial-law-type emergency provisions that have been found unconstitutional elsewhere in the shadow of the RNC. The presidential electoral process shouldn’t suspend our people’s rights; it is supposed to defend them.

Taking away people’s defensive arms serves only to make the criminals safer and the law-abiding helpless victims.

Lisa Montelione's picture
Lisa Montelione
Member of the Tampa City Council (District 7)
It was apparent from the swiftness of his reply that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s decision was made before he even received Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s request to allow Tampa to decide where concealed weapons could be carried during the four days of the Republican National Convention.  His quick decision could not have been more wrong. 

Our governor had the ability to temporarily suspend the restrictions set forth in Section 790.33(3) of the Florida Statutes, the piece of legislation that prohibits cities from regulating the transportation of firearms. However, he passed on taking this necessary, prudent and reasonable step to prevent a potential tragedy in Tampa during the RNC.

Our foremost duty as elected officials is to protect our citizens and those we welcome as visitors. This should have been Mr. Scott’s first priority as governor, too.  By asking for a four-day exemption from the state’s concealed weapons law, local officials would have been the ones to determine what is right for our city.  Local law enforcement officers would have been provided with an additional resource to ensure that thousands of delegates, protesters and members of the media are spared from potential tragedy.

Society has become deeply divided, with both sides passionate about their causes. No matter which side you are on, or even if you are on neither side, when passionate people with opposing opinions come together in a highly charged environment, trouble is bound to happen.

I have seen enough images of past RNC events, as well as various other political gatherings, such as the 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, or even the more recent May Day bombing plots, to know that there will be a handful of individuals who come only to wreak havoc on our city. There are many who will come with the intention of exercising their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner; however, they may find themselves alongside those with other intentions.  I shudder to think what would happen if those innocent individuals are caught in the mayhem.

It is not the owners of concealed weapon permits that I have concerns over. Many are responsible citizens and I count among them family members and friends. However, all it takes is one person to spoil the image of many.  We are expecting upwards of 50,000 people to be in Tampa.  Is it reasonable to expect that one in 50,000 may do something they, or we, will regret later? Most definitely.  Allowing guns in the temporary “Event Zone” will not help a situation that will already be extremely tense and difficult to manage.

As the author of a letter from the City Council backing up Mayor Buckhorn’s request, I could not disagree more with our governor’s misguided decision. Still, Mr. Scott has three and a half months to correct this mistake.

Bill Bunting's picture
Bill Bunting
Second Amendment chair, Republican Party of Florida
Gov. Rick Scott was 100 percent right to tell Tampa Mayor Buckhorn that he would not suspend the state statute and prohibit concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their firearms into a “clean zone” during the Republican National Convention.   This was just a ploy by Mayor Buckhorn to promote his anti-gun agenda and rally the anti-gun faction of his Democratic base.  The notion that a governor can suspend a state statute where he or she pleases doesn’t even make sense. 
Why would Mayor Buckhorn even want to stop law-abiding people from carrying their firearms?  Criminals planning on a robbery won’t care.  They’ll bring their guns while honest people would be left defenseless.  In addition, knowing victims would be unarmed would be an invitation to criminals.
To obtain a permit, people have to be trained and screened. They must take a firearm safety course and be fingerprinted so that both the FBI and the FDLE can do a background check. They must have a photo taken. 
When the number of carry permits goes up, crime goes down.  As of April 30, Florida has 928,638 concealed carry permit holders.  Miami-Dade County has 83,171 permit holders, and Broward County has 72,592.  According to the FDLE Crime Report, in 1989, there were 145,473 violent crimes.  In 2011, there were 98,183.  Remember that Florida’s population increased dramatically during these years.  Property crime from the same period is also down:  975,042 in 1989 and 671,297 in 2011.  This trend is actually nationwide.
Mayor Buckhorn also tried to stop concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their firearms into the Fairgrounds. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam explained that the state law allowed them to carry in the Fairgrounds.  There was not one incident.
Gov. Scott also explained that the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms.  Both Gov. Scott and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, probably along with many other governors, have concealed-carry permits.   Even our U.S. Congress understands the significance of concealed-carry laws.  Congress passed a national right-to-carry bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, which passed by 136 votes.  A companion bill is working its way through the Senate.
There is only one state that does not issue a carry permit: Illinois.
I applaud Gov. Scott for standing up for the U.S. Constitution – and for just plain common sense.
Bill Bunting is also Pasco County Republican State Committeeman.
Dan Gross's picture
Dan Gross
President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Florida is now known around the world for letting vigilantes roam the streets carrying loaded, hidden handguns to shoot first and ask questions later.  Thanks to Gov. Rick Scott, Florida now will also be known for restricting shovels and water pistols outside the Republican National Convention while law enforcement will be powerless to stop agitators armed with semi-automatic handguns. 

The NRA’s vision of America is one of political protest backed not by the power of words but by a loaded pistol at your side.  The NRA continues to push this deadly agenda just a year after Jared Loughner carried a loaded Glock pistol to his “Congress on Your Corner” in Tucson, Ariz.  The NRA’s reckless gun laws let him legally carry that semi-automatic weapon until he used it to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and kill six innocent people, including a 9-year-old girl born on 9/11 who just wanted to learn about our democracy. 

While the NRA pays its CEO a million dollars a year to threaten that “the guys with the guns make the rules,” the rest of us have to decide whether our children need to wear body armor just to see our government in action.

From forcing guns into city halls, parks and beaches to banning doctors from warning parents about the risks of guns in the home (a law blocked by the Brady Center’s legal team as a blatant violation of the First Amendment), Gov. Scott has done the gun lobby’s bidding at the expense of public safety and common sense.  Florida has become the NRA’s go-to state for its extreme agenda, and, sadly, Floridians pay the cost everyday with innocent lives lost.

The gun lobby promised that Florida would be a safe-haven from crime if only it allowed loaded, hidden handguns to flood the streets.  Florida did just that nearly 25 years ago and has ranked among the top five states with the highest violent crime rates every year since.  More than 6,000 people have been caught committing crimes after receiving a Florida license to carry a loaded, hidden handgun.

The NRA says “an armed society is a polite society.”  Tell that to Trayvon Martin’s parents.  Tell that to the families of the more than 7,000 Floridians who have been shot to death in gun homicides in the last decade.  It’s time for us to demand that our leaders stop listening to the gun lobby and demand a society free from the daily death toll of gunfire.

Rich Bard's picture
Rich Bard
Associate Editor

Clearly Florida Gov. Rick Scott believes he made the right decision to reject Tampa's request concerning firearms. But we thought his reasoning behind that decision was best set forth in his May 1 letter to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. It reads, in part:

“My understanding is that the current security plan will ban firearms in the convention center itself, as well as in an immediately adjacent ‘safe zone’ established by the Secret Service. You are now requesting that citizens be disarmed in all of downtown Tampa, including in areas across the river, and distant, from the convention center and Secret Service safe zone.

“The short answer to your request is found in the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in Article I, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution. These provisions guarantee that the government may not infringe the people’s right ‘to keep and bear arms.’ The United States Supreme Court has explained that those rights have real force, and that government bans on firearms are generally impermissible. While the government may enforce longstanding prohibitions on the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, an absolute ban on possession in entire neighborhoods and regions would surely violate the 2nd Amendment.

“You note that the City’s temporary ordinance regulates ‘sticks, poles, and water guns,’ but that firearms are a ‘noticeable item missing from the City’s temporary ordinance.’ Firearms are noticeably included, however, in the 2nd Amendment. The choice to allow the government to ban sticks and poles, but not firearms, is one that the People made in enacting their state and federal constitutions.”

The governor added:

“Like you, I share the concern that ‘violent anti-government protests or other civil unrest’ can pose ‘dangers’ and the ‘threat of substantial injury or harm to Florida residents and visitors to the State.’ But it is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law. It is at just such times that the constitutional right to self-defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach. I am confident that the many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies focused on the RNC will fully protect Floridians and visitors, without the need to resort to sweeping infringements on our most sacred constitutional traditions.

“We have had political conventions in this country since the dawn of the Republic. They are an essential means of furthering our constitutional rights to free speech and to vote. Our fundamental right to keep and bear arms has coexisted with those freedoms for just as long, and I see no reason to depart from that tradition this year.”

To see an image of the governor’s letter, as provided by the Tampa Bay Times, click here.

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FloridaVoices User Comments

The Supreme Court chose to ignore the opening phrase of the second amendment, i.e., "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,..." By doing so, it appears to be saying that the right to keep and bear arms can only be abridged because of extraordinary circumstances. The governor's party and its benefactor, the NRA, has championed this interpretation of the amendment. For the governor to agree to ban firearms in the vicinity of the RNC convention would be hypocritical. He should be recognized for his consistency. This doesn't mean that it is correct or wise, just consistent. I hope that, if something unfortunate happens because of this decision, he will accept responsibility.


by Dr. Radut.